Back in July of 2023, I wrote a blog on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and what plan sponsors needed to know at that time. I was pregnant while writing that first blog and curious not only how the law would impact me and millions of other pregnant women across the country, but its impact on plan sponsors/employers and how they should prepare.

The Update

A couple of weeks ago, on April 19, 2024, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published final regulations implementing the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PFWA) effective June 18, 2024.

PWFA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, miscarriage, stillbirth or related medical conditions, absent undue hardship on business operations.

The final rule “encourages employers and employees to communicate early and often, allowing them to identify and resolve issues in a timely manner,” EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows said in a news release.

The rule addresses which workers are covered, medical conditions covered, how workers request reasonable accommodations, how employers respond to those requests, and explains when an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on an employer and its business.

[Helpful resource: What You Should Know About the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act]

Clarifications and examples highlighted in the final rule include the following:

  • Pregnancy and childbirth include current pregnancy, past pregnancy or intended pregnancy (e.g., fertility treatment)
  • EEOC identifies so-called predictable assessments, which are “modifications that will, in virtually all cases, be found to be reasonable accommodations that do not impose an undue hardship when requested by a qualified employee due to pregnancy,” the final rule says. These modifications are allowing an employee to carry or keep water near, to take breaks to drink and eat, to take additional restroom breaks, and allowing an employee whose work requires standing to sit and whose work requires sitting to stand (all on an as needed basis).
  • Reasonable accommodations examples are time off for health care appointments; temporary reassignment; temporary suspension of certain job duties; remote work; or time off to recover from a pregnancy loss.
  • Gestational diabetes, sciatica, postpartum depression are examples of related medical conditions.
  • EEOC will handle employers’ religious exemption requests on a case-by-case basis.
  • In determining whether accommodation is reasonable, the rule provides examples and factors that would pose an undue hardship. (i.e., A health care employee who sees patients couldn’t work remotely. A convenience store employee couldn’t reduce hours when no other workers can cover the shifts.)
  • Note, the examples explain that if the request is an undue hardship and the employer denies it, then the employer must offer other reasonable accommodations that would not cause undue hardship.

 Other Federal Laws That May Apply to Pregnant Workers:  

  • Title VII (enforced by the EEOC), which:
    • Protects an employee from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions; and
    • Requires covered employers to treat a worker affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as other workers similar in their ability or inability to work
  • The ADA (enforced by the EEOC), which:
    • Protects an employee from discrimination based on disability
    • Requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations to a person with a disability if the reasonable accommodation would not cause an undue hardship for the employer.
    • While pregnancy is not a disability under the ADA, some pregnancy-related conditions may be disabilities under the law.
  • The PUMP Act (Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act) (enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor), which broadens workplace protections for employees to express breast milk at work. 
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor), which provides covered employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons [More on The International Foundation’s FMLA e-learning course if you’re looking for a tune-up!]

Anne Patterson

Associate Director, PR and Communications Favorite Foundation Product: Foundation Community. It’s like LinkedIn but only for Foundation members. They can post questions, share best practices, etc—all with fellow members who also live and breathe employee benefits. Benefits-related Topics That Interest Her Most: Mental health, diversity, equity and inclusion, behavioral decision making, family-forming benefits, payroll audits. Personal Insight: When she’s not busy keeping up with her two little ones, Anne finds joy in home renovation and décor, haiku writing, watching Jeopardy, crafting charcuterie boards, and bicycling.

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